Wolf Alice return with their eagerly-awaited second album, Visions Of A Life – and it has a lot to live up to. The likes of Yuk Foo and Don’t Delete The Kisses teased something rather special, and for some, their debut album was one of 2015’s best. Peaking at Number 2 in the charts, My Love Is Cool saw Wolf Alice propelled into the limelight touring the globe, playing raucous life show after raucous life show and their stunning Silk even featured on the soundtrack to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting sequel, T2.
Recently, lead singer Ellie Rowsell and her bandmates have opened up about the toll that took on the group; you sense Wolf Alice wanted the perfect conditions when they returned to the studio. This time they’ve teamed up with LA-based Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Paramore, M83) after they remembered being impressed by his guitar work performing with Beck, feeling that he’d be the perfect person to understand such a guitar-driven band.
Heavenward opens Visions Of A Life and sets the bar for what follows: a deeply emotional song inspired by the death of a close friend. “I’m gonna celebrate you forever,” Rowsell promises. “You taught us things we all should learn.” And throughout the record, as a listener, you do feel you are learning a lot about Wolf Alice as people – in particular, Rowsell. She lays it all on the line during the aforementioned Don’t Delete The Kisses, a beautifully melancholic, bittersweet song, which topsy-turvies an adventurous path through the insecurity of love. There’s something of a dreamlike transcendence to song as Rowsell battles her feelings about someone, the messages created by those pesky kisses at the end of texts, and the acceptance of romantic teenage clichés.
The effortlessness in the spoken lead vocal – a frequent feature – is nothing short of stunning. “I’m typing you a message/that I know I’ll never send,” she says in a free-flowing modern-day love note; “Rewriting old excuses/delete the kisses at the end”. Angst and aggression too raise their heads regularly, never more so than during the expletive-filled (and cleverly-titled?) Yuk Foo. There’s always been a lot made about Wolf Alice being the UK’s answer to Nirvana and this song is the closest representation you’ll find on their new album. The track allows drummer Joel Amey and bassist Theo Ellis to do what they do best: make one hell of a sound. The song is pure anarchy, and sure to leave sweat dripping out of every pore of band and audience alike during their exuberant live shows.
There are no low points in this relentless record. At times it is beastly, baring its teeth. At others, it’s divinely angelic, St Purple Green and Sky Musings being prime examples. Beautifully Unconventional pretty much sums it up; on a record filled with short and snappy numbers, you could be forgiven for thinking the band would wind down and be a little wistful on the seven-minute closing title track, but Wolf Alice aren’t like that, and this song is as big and as brash as much of what has come before. So relevant and of its moment, touching on the little things which make up our lives then showing utter disdain to the establishment, you’ll struggle to find many better albums than Visions Of A Life this year.